Music In The Great War: Ivor Gurney (1890-1937)

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03Gurney in Love20140702

03Gurney in Love20140702

Donald Macleod discusses Gurney's falling in love while in hospital during WWI.

03Gurney in Love20140702

03Gurney in Love20140702

Invalided home, Gurney falls in love.

It's a story that begins full of possibility and hope; Gurney was one of the brightest musical lights of his generation. He imagined himself as Schubert's heir; a fresh, young genius whose music and poetry would revolutionise British society. Donald Macleod discovers how that early promise came to fruition and then unravelled, as Gurney struggled with the horrors of World War One and serious mental illness. Gurney expert, Dr Kate Kennedy, joins Donald to uncover the man behind the tragedy and explore the art he produced in the face of enormous adversity. Much of Gurney's output is still rarely performed, and several works have been specially recorded for these programmes.

With Gurney serving in France during World War One, his passion for music took a back seat. However, his creativity found a new outlet as a poet. He didn't stop composing altogether though, and one of his songs, Captain Stratton's Fancy, became quite a hit amongst fellow soldiers.

Gurney had now transferred to the Machine Gun Corps. He escaped with only minor symptoms after being caught in a gas attack, but found himself sent back from the frontline, and eventually shipped off to Scotland for treatment. Whilst in hospital he fell in love with a nurse, Annie Nelson Drummond, and during his convalescence he composed one of his favourite songs, The Folly of Being Comforted.

04Gurney Loses His Freedom20140703

04Gurney Loses His Freedom20140703

Donald Macleod focuses on Gurney's deteriorating mental health.

04Gurney Loses His Freedom20140703

04Gurney Loses His Freedom20140703

Ivor Gurney is inspired by a new teacher, but struggles with deteriorating mental health.

It's a story that begins full of possibility and hope; Gurney was one of the brightest musical lights of his generation. He imagined himself as Schubert's heir; a fresh, young genius whose music and poetry would revolutionise British society. Donald Macleod discovers how that early promise came to fruition and then unravelled, as Gurney struggled with the horrors of World War One and serious mental illness. Gurney expert, Dr Kate Kennedy, joins Donald to uncover the man behind the tragedy and explore the art he produced in the face of enormous adversity. Much of Gurney's output is still rarely performed, and several works have been specially recorded for these programmes.

In 1919 an old and close friend of Gurney's, Margaret Hunt, passed away in the flu epidemic; he threw himself into composing his Violin Sonata in E flat major, which he dedicated to her. Things seemed to be looking up for Gurney though, as he returned to his studies at the Royal College of Music, where his new tutor was Vaughan Williams. Student and teacher developed a good relationship, and Gurney was inspired to compose new works, including his Ludlow and Teme.

The signs of instability that had previously arisen before the war were soon to resurface again. Gurney began to struggle, and found it hard to find work. He considered suicide, and at one point visited a police station to ask for a gun. By 1922, Gurney was been certified and committed to Barnwood House asylum.